Entertainment Value

Have you ever performed on stage or given a speech?


In junior high, I danced in the spring musical to Singin’ in the Rain wearing a flared skirt and heels and flashing an umbrella. This was with five other girls, and I stayed firmly in the back row. The dancing wasn’t difficult but the umbrella manipulation – the opening and closing and twirling – was impossible. So many opportunities to be grossly out of sync. To be seen and not in that modern, life-affirming way, “I feel seen,” but in that “did you see that girl on the end and how she can’t keep the beat?”

In high school, I performed in the water as part of our school’s synchronized swimming club. There was no competitive swimming for girls then, so we had to pour ourselves into learning how to do ballet legs, Catalinas, and dolphin chains in which a couple dozen girls linked together feet to neck created a moving vertical circle so half of the girls were underwater (holding their breath) and the other half atop the water (breathing normally and smiling at the audience). It was hideous, lung busting, and humiliating if one broke the chain. I would rather have died.

In one particularly memorable swim club performance, a bunch of us – seven or eight – were dressed up as Davy Crockett in tan leotards and tights. The tights had fringe, you know, like Davy would’ve had, and we wore hats although I don’t think they were squirrel fur, which we must have thrown off before doing our synchronized dive. The leotard and tights got very heavy in the water, so every little move was a hundred times harder. It was pretty much the scrubs, the B Team (C maybe) assigned the Davy Crockett business, the thinking being that everyone would be so fascinated by our incredible costumes, they’d ignore our flopping about. The A team never wore all that stuff – they wore great looking bathing suits, Esther Williams quality – at least that’s what I remember. So much of my high school life was spent in a haze of envy and awe.

I don’t twirl umbrellas or swim in tights anymore. But I do make an occasional speech which I sometimes like but always dread in the lead-up. I rarely talk without notes, and I practice a lot, mostly in the car or the shower. The idea of extemporaneous speaking seems completely foreign and naked to me although I’d like to try getting up in front of an audience and simply telling a story – just a mic and a little spotlight. Maybe when I’m 80. Everyone will think I’m a super cute old lady and give me huge points for having gumption. It’ll be like wearing those Davy Crockett tights all over again.

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